There's a reason that bridal showers and bachelorette parties are separate events. Unlike friends-only bachelorette parties, bridal showers include all kinds of riffraff: stuffy great aunts, annoying cousins and mothers-in-law of all shapes and sizes. This is dangerous -- an innocent gift of sexy lingerie (or something more risqué) could send a grandmother into paroxysms. What's a maid of honor to do when planning a shower?
Focus on the bride, of course! A wedding shower is a chance to give the bride a little bit of a rest, to help her have a little fun and to celebrate her as a person. That means sparing her from sipping tea in awkward silence with people she only sort of knows. Need some inspiration? Here are 10 tasteful wedding shower ideas you can mix and match that will keep relatives unruffled and everyone else awake.
10: Tasting Shower
We all have a friend with good taste -- literally. She's the kind of person who can tell at a whiff whether a cheese is from sheep or goat's milk. She turns up her nose at franchise coffee shops and will pour a perfectly good bottle of wine down the kitchen sink if she thinks the tannins are too hot.
A gourmet-themed tasting shower is the perfect excuse to give the bride the pampering her taste buds crave. Wine, chocolate, cheese and microbrew professionals are always available for private events. Pick a theme for gifts, like glassware or bakeware, or ask guests to bring gourmet nibbles as presents and hold a tasting. The bride will love sampling rich and complex foods like Criollo chocolate truffles or acorn-fed Serrano ham, and she'd probably be game for a wine tasting.
9: Spa and Beauty Shower
Wedding planning is rightly regarded as one of the most stressful activities known to humankind. And that goes for the bride as well as her entourage. Bridesmaids, mothers, the groom, the wedding planner -- everyone suffers a little in order to make a wedding happen. Holding a bridal shower at a day spa can diffuse some of that tension and make the frazzled wedding party feel human again.
While nobody does pampering like the pros, a spa-themed bridal shower doesn't necessarily mean tithing the poor bridesmaids for mani-pedis. There are plenty of recipes for facials, aromatherapy elixirs and beauty treatments that can be done at home. You can keep the session cozy by hiring a masseuse or manicurist to work their magic on guests during a party at the hostess's home.
8: Co-ed Shower
Wait, not that kind of co-ed shower! We mean one to which the groom is invited.
No boys allowed may still be the standing rule for bridal showers, but what is this, 1890? If the bride is marrying him, we can assume that she at least likes the guy (who, by the way, is not getting a groom-al shower of his own).
In the spirit of inclusiveness, a co-ed couples shower is an opportunity to give gifts from the registry that will benefit the bride and groom individually, but would be weird to present as a gift to the couple (read: nose-hair trimmer). Co-ed showers can also balance out the party with a few well-behaved boys if assorted in-laws and hangers-on are threatening to make it look like a snoozer.
Plus -- and this should not be overlooked -- the bride gets more presents.
7: Stock-the-bar Shower
Do beautiful brides-to-be and single malt scotch go together? Time to find out!
Wedding showers were originally invented to help a bride begin to build a home, and one of the best ways to make a hospitable home is to have a drop of the good stuff stowed away in case unexpected guests drop in. This makes a stock-the-bar shower a perfect theme for the sociable hostess bride. Besides being a surefire segue into a bachelorette party (if that's what you have in mind), having a stock-the-bar theme for gifts has the added benefit of taking the pressure off the guests to find good presents.
Top-shelf liquors are standard for a couple's first bar, as well as exotic mixers, the mysterious liqueurs and the deliciously oddball small-batch spirits.
6: Arts and Crafts Shower
Getting together for arts and crafts has been a time-tested method for encouraging bonding since way back in ye olden days. Now, instead of boiling lye for soap and squinting at needlepoint by candlelight, we get to do way cooler stuff. Adding an arts and crafts theme to a bridal shower is perfect if the bride in question is the kind who loves to design her own jewelry, do home canning or crochet adorable sweaters for dogs.
The trick is to keep the crafts interesting and accessible. A lesson from the local knitting shop or an hour or two in a pottery studio throwing pots is an ideal crowd-pleaser -- just try to stay away from anything to do with popsicle sticks.
The kitschy factor of an arts and crafts shower will also lend itself to kitschy food. Check through a few old cookbooks from the 1950s or '60s for some retro party recipes to fit the mood.
5: Outdoorsy or Active Shower
Throwing an original bridal shower often simply means a change of location. Instead of crowding into a tea parlor, head to a nearby beach or lake, or something more unorthodox, like a ski lodge or a campground.
Some fun options take you even farther from the land of quaint. Don't knock a gun range bridal shower until you've tried it. Outdoors doesn't mean having to leave the city, either -- a low-impact yoga session or an indoor rock climbing session are also excellent activities for an active bride's shower. Just make sure there's a hot tub or a campfire and marshmallows waiting at the end of the party for oldsters and the athletically disinclined.
4: Garden Shower
Many people may be surprised to find out that garden parties are more than an excuse to wear fascinating hats and drink alcohol before lunch. When this theme is applied to a bridal shower, it's also an opportunity to make a gardener bride happy.
Like the foodie bride, every gardener bride has a long wish list of gardening accoutrements: heirloom tomato plants, rare flower bulbs and hard-to-find seeds. That's not to mention all the hardware!
Gifts aside and weather permitting, a garden party can be modified either to have an air of refinement (think white gloves and sipping lemonade in the shade), or a down and dirty approach where friends lend their elbow grease to pull weeds, dig furrows and help the bride get that much closer to her dream garden in her new nesting place.
3: Music Shower
Secret wedding tip: DJ or no DJ, band or no band, getting the playlist right for a wedding is insanely difficult. Anyone tasked with this assignment, be it the maid of honor, groom, mother of the bride (why did you ask her to make your wedding mix?), is bound to spend several sleepless nights agonizing over it. The reason? Most of the best love songs are breakup songs. It's not like you can just put Sting's "Fields of Gold" on repeat, though we do recommend playing it at least once.
Holding a music-themed shower at a concert thus becomes both a practical solution and a great excuse to go out and see a show. For gifts, guests bring CDs of love songs for the audiophile bride to use at her reception. After the concert, this shower can easily segue into a night on the town for a bachelorette party.
2: Foodie Shower
Everyone loves having a friend who's a foodie -- she cooks for you! A bridal shower is the perfect time to give your guest of honor a kitchen lesson from her favorite restaurant so she can master the sushi roll or finally get those croissants just right.
As for gifts, no matter what kind of a cook she is, there are some gourmet-worthy implements and decadent ingredients that will suit her ravenous taste for good eating. Offer gifts like French steel omelet pans, slow-cooking vacuum flasks and molinillos -- things that are far too impractical for her to include on a basic wedding registry, but still make her eyes light up like a mad scientist's when she sees them. And hey, maybe she'll cook you something later.
1: Fan-girl Shower
Bridal showers don't have to be a huge deal. "Classy" and "elegant" are good words to throw around, but at the end of the day, the party is about the bride. Let her know how much you love her by planning a shower that's uniquely her. This is the time to pick the perfect, most personal gift for your betrothed friend. After the wedding, she'll be buried under a pile of practical but boring gravy boats and decorative picture frames from the registry.
So, you know the bride has a geeky secret. Would she rather be playing a massive Settlers of Catan tournament? Does she lust after "Lost"? Does she hyperventilate when she hears the words "Katamari Damacy"? Keep the bride's taste in mind when casting around for themes -- holding a great bridal shower can be as easy as getting friends together to pop a few bottles of red wine and dig into a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" marathon.